Danny Rosenbaum (MiLB.com)
By Zev Ben Avigdor/Jewish Baseball News
More than 50 Jews currently play Major- or minor-league ball, but few are generating more raves this season than award-winning Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum.
The 24-year-old hurler is putting up ridiculous numbers for the Harrisburg Senators (AA), compiling a 5-0 record, league-leading 0.71 ERA, 33 strikeouts, and just 4 walks. There’s talk the Nats may call him up during their September roster expansion, pending a solid performance with the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA).
Not bad for a guy from Loveland, OH, who was the 652nd pick in the 2009 draft — a mere 651 places behind fellow Nationals draftee Stephen Strasburg — and began the 2012 season ranked #23 on Baseball America’s list of Nationals prospects.
Rosenbaum is poised off-field as well as on. During a visit earlier this month to Binghamton, N.Y., home of the New York Mets’ AA franchise, the 6’1″ left-hander juggled attention from out-of-town family members, questions from an 8-year-old Jewish fan — including the first three you’ll see below — and still more queries from Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor. An edited transcript follows.
What do you like about being Jewish?
I get asked that a lot. I like the traditions that everyone holds and that we get to celebrate with our families. It’s a very family-oriented religion, and it’s always great to see family like that come in, come watch me play, and just get to be together. I’d say that’s the biggest thing. And also it’s a small group of guys that are playing, and getting to be a role model for little leaguers and young kids. It’s a blessing to feel like that.
What is your favorite holiday?
It used to be Chanukah, when I appreciated presents a lot. But now? I always liked Passover. All the food you get to eat. We always had our family over for Passover every year, and my parents make pretty good food — pretty good matzoh ball soup — and my grandma cooks real well, too. So probably Passover. [During Pesach] I try to watch the yeast stuff and just try not to eat a lot of bread. And I call my family and wish I could be there. It’s tough not being back with them, celebrating it with them.
And who is your favorite baseball player?
I’d have to say, I guess, Sandy Koufax is my favorite Jewish baseball player. He’s always been a role model for me and for a lot of Jewish kids out of Cincinnati. [Note: Rosenbaum grew up in a Cincinnati suburb and played two seasons at Cincinnati's Xavier University. Koufax went to the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship.] He’s just that huge public figure…Everyone wants to [emulate] what he did and what he did for the game of baseball. My favorite player growing up—like everyone else—was Ken Griffey, Jr.
What would you like the readers of Jewish Baseball News to know about you?
I guess to say I’m getting married this fall, back in Cincinnati. I actually knew her in middle school, but we didn’t start dating until my senior year in high school. My freshman year I went to Indiana, and she went to Morehead State, which is in Kentucky, and I transferred after my freshman year [to Xavier University]. We did the whole long distance thing for five years, six years, and now we’re [still] doing long distance. She’s working back home. It’s tough. It’s a tough lifestyle, but we made a commitment, and we’re ready to be together forever.
You mentioned Jewish kids. Do you get much chance to work with them directly?
Not during the season. During the off-season I did. I went to help out the JCC. I gave lessons out of there. While I was there we volunteered to help out the Orthodox Jewish kids there and made them a little bit better. There’s not a whole lot of them, but it was fun to be a part of it and to learn what their lifestyle is like, because I’ve never really been associated with Orthodox Jews before. So it was pretty cool. It was fun.
Has anywhere you’ve ever played done a Jewish Heritage Night?
I don’t think so. Just that one time we had the Jewish camp that came to our game in Hagerstown. That’s probably the closest we came to that. It’s pretty exciting knowing that you have a whole group of kids that are behind you the whole way. Even though I’m not playing, they’re still cheering for me, so it’s just a good feeling to have.
And finally a baseball question: How do you do it? You don’t have an overpowering 98 mph fastball, but you just seem to get people out.
I just try to stay even-keeled the whole way. It’s like my parents said, ‘Don’t make the highs too high and the lows too low.’ Just go out and battle. Be a competitor. That’s what our manager wants to see and our pitching coach and our organization. That’s all I try to do, is just give my team a chance to win.
(Editor’s note: “Zev Ben Avigdor” is the pen name of a university scholar who writes for Jewish Baseball News. Click here to see more of his interviews.)
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